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Milestone for Release to Work

6 October 2006

Milestone for Release to Work

Figures released by the Department of Corrections show the number of prisoners on Release to Work employment passed sixty this week.

“I cannot over emphasise the importance of this,” says Corrections Inmate Employment Operations Manager Robin Benefield. “Meaningful employment is a key component in reducing re-offending and Release to Work gives prisoners the chance to secure this.

“There are regional labour shortages across New Zealand and the scheme offers businesses an alternative source of staff. This has an ongoing benefit as prisoners often stay in the job once released.

“This time last year there were eight prisoners on release to work, today there are 61,” says Mr Benefield. “By Monday there will be 64 and we are looking for suitable work for another 45 prisoners.

“Around the country we have prisoners gaining skills and experience in silviculture and timber processing, horticulture and agriculture, construction, manufacturing, engineering, distribution, landscaping, plumbing, and automotive industries.

“These opportunities would not be possible without the foresight and support of industries and the communities who understand that providing prisoners with a start means they are less likely to end up back inside.”

Release to Work – a key component of the Prisoner Employment Strategy –allows carefully selected prisoners nearing release to be employed during the day in the community.

“It also benefits the community as prisoners contribute to the cost of their incarceration through a board-like payment.”

As Release to Work is important in making communities safer, Mr Benefield says Corrections matches prisoners with employers very carefully.

“As with everything, the safety of the public is our prime concern. Release to Work prisoners are carefully selected with regard to their offence, security classification, potential impact on victims, and behaviour towards others. Furthermore, we vet potential employers and regularly monitor prisoners at work.”

Corrections aims to continue to increase the numbers of prisoners participating in Release to Work.

Background information on Release to Work

Release to work is a natural extension of prisoner employment, and is a form of temporary release that has been operating since 1961. Prisoners serving their last months in prison can be released to work during the day in ordinary jobs in the community.

The main advantage of Release to Work is that it provides prisoners with a stable work record and job experience. The job is often carried on when the prisoner leaves prison, helping to ease their transition into the wider community.

Release to work is often successful where there is a shortage of local labour, as prisoners fill positions that may otherwise be unfilled. While Corrections encourages prisoners to find jobs for themselves, prisons also have links with employers that are used to help prisoners find jobs.

Prisoners receive market-based wages commensurate with their skills and training, and must receive at least the minimum wage. Thirty percent is paid to Corrections as board and to cover the costs of the prisoner’s rehabilitation. The money is also used to pay family support or any outstanding fines and the rest is saved so the prisoner has funds on release.

ENDS

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